I am obsessed with my skin. And no, not in the traditional sense. I don’t love experimenting with new products or finding the latest lotions. I look at my skin, and I see chaos. And I feel it, too. Every pore, every bump, lump, and budding pimple reflects the intangible, the unknowable, an impending doom shadowing my every waking breath. If you think I am vain, it is because I probably am. But this is more than a little vanity. This is an obsession. A compulsion. Checking. Feeling. Treating. Crying. Sleeping. Pacing. Rocking. This is my life with OCD.
Oftentimes, people associate OCD with a desire for order and cleanliness. Friends and acquaintances commonly use OCD as an adjective to describe their type A personalities.
“I’m so OCD about keeping my room clean.”
“I wish I was more OCD about keeping up with my school work.”
When people dismiss the utter devastation that OCD can inflict on someone’s life, it deeply pains me. But it is not their fault for not knowing. As a society, we have depicted OCD as a positive attribute, associated with perfectionism and cleanliness. While some sufferers do present symptoms relating to these themes, I can promise you, they’d much rather have a messy room than face this daily prison.
My OCD is currently fixated on my skin, and it has been since the ripe age of 11. I believe I have horrendous acne, and feel cysts, infections, pimples emerging on my skin 24/7. I am constantly researching new methods to prevent acne, from cutting out dairy, to eating more protein, to reducing B12 intake...the list goes on. I only sleep on fresh towels to avoid contamination, I cry almost every time I wash my face, and I spend 80-90% of my waking hours thinking about my skin.
And the best part of it all? My friends and family tell me my skin is completely fine. My dermatologist refuses to prescribe me any acne medication, saying it would be overkill. Thus, I am trapped between two conflicting realities: the one I see before my eyes, and the one presented by the world around me. Who am I to believe? The scariest part of OCD is being confronted with your own irrational mind. Or is it irrational? Am I crazy? Am I delusional? The questions are constant, unending, a broken track record spitting out the same putrid tune. I sleep long hours to avoid this tiresome wakefulness. Yet my dreams are deluged in images of skin.
And so is my Tik Tok feed. You’ve probably scrolled upon dog Tik Tok and cute baby Tik Tok. But have you heard of burn victims and psoriasis Tik Tok? Probably not. Somehow, the algorithm has climbed inside of my broken brain, learned my darkest fears, and displayed them on a bright screen. From mirrors to dreams to social media, I am constantly inundated with my obsession. And I’m growing tired of fighting.
So why write about this cycle of despair? Writing in itself is cathartic, so maybe I’m being a little selfish here. But I also hope that this may dispel some of the glamorized myths about OCD. Most importantly, I want to reach out to my fellow OCD sufferers. The only consolation I can provide is that you are not alone in your battle. I don’t know when it will get better, but you won’t always be stuck in your lows. There are brighter days, moments of laughter, where your mind temporarily wanders from the cyclical flood of chaos. Those little bits of hope, where you can feel the essence of your being rush back into your body, are worth it. And you are so very worth it.
I’m incredibly aware that a second, minute, day, or month of cognitive calmness only makes the descent into illness all the more painful. You may obsess over the very quantity of your obsessions, lament the accelerating severity of your illness, as your body edges toward a cliff of oblivion. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. There is no cliff. You’re not falling. The tides will turn. And the good days aren’t gone forever. If I’m talking to anyone who resembles myself, I know you could care less about my kind sentiments. Words don’t ease the present pain. I know. And I’m right here beside you. I’m fighting, I’m living, I’m breathing. Because I deserve something better. And I know that you do, too.
Written by: Brianna RauchmanInstagram: @briannarauchman